What Chemicals Are in Nail Polish and What Are Green Alternatives?

Many people use nail polish, from small children to the elderly. The practice is viewed as a clean, professional way to present one’s nails. Some use nail polish frequently, while others go a while before using it again. Some love the smell, but did you know that there are harmful chemicals lurking behind that tell-tale smell? This does not mean you need to throw out all of your polish, but you do need to be careful. Be aware of the ingredients and do your research before applying it.

A Study of Nail Polish

Duke University and EWG published a study at the end of 2015 that examined harmful chemicals in popular nail polish brands. They found that 8 out of 10 samples contain triphenyl phosphate (TPHP). This chemical is a suspected endocrine disruptor, meaning that it can disrupt the hormones our bodies naturally produce. It has also upset the development and reproductive processes in animals.

TPHP is used in polish to make the product more flexible and durable. Duke University and EWG found TPHP in the following brands: Sally Hansen, Wet N Wild, Revlon, OPI, Essie, and several more. Some labels did not state that they contained the chemical, but tested positive for it anyway. Do your research beforehand because you cannot always trust the label.

This chemical is also used as a fire retardant in furniture cushions and in the manufacturing of plastics.

Women and TPHP

The study also tested the urine of 26 women both before and after applying nail polish. They looked for DPHP, which is a chemical the body creates when it metabolizes TPHP. The researchers found a drastically higher level of DPHP in women after applying polish.

How does the chemical get inside the body if it is only on the nails? The cuticles and skin around the nails can absorb TPHP, and those who bite their nails risk ingesting it. It can also enter the bloodstream just by inhaling the fumes. Frequent use of nail polish can cause long-term exposure to TPHP, which comes with a greater risk of breast and ovarian cancer, prostate conditions, thyroid disorders, and even infertility.

Precautions to Take

If you want to use nail polish but are not sure if it contains TPHP, there are a few precautions you should take.

  • Use less of it. Only paint fingers or toes, but not both. Use fewer coats as well because the level of DPHP in the body rose with every coat.
  • Apply it at home. Nail salons have a higher concentration of fumes, which means riskier exposure. Make sure when you apply it at home you do it in a well-ventilated room.
  • Teach your children. Children both before and during puberty are especially susceptible to TPHP. Limit how much they use and teach them to not bite their nails. Practice what you preach so they can follow your example.

Green Alternatives to Nail Polish

If you want to try products that do not contain TPHP, there are nail polishes available. Honeybee Gardens offers a water-based polish that is odor-free, and Acquarella offers non-toxic polishes as well.

Though many companies will not provide nail polish that is entirely free from toxins, some will be better than others. Just make sure you do your research before you buy.

Image Source: Pixabay

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Lacey Jolley

I love exploring, experiencing new places, and eating good food! I'm amazed every day at how well the Earth provides for us, and I want to return the favor. I hope to help others learn how we can make our world a better, cleaner place.

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